July 2021 held important milestones for manned spaceflight, as well as towards democratization of space exploration and travel. We are writing about the space race because as new ground, or should we say ‘atmosphere”, is taken in the name of advancing our potential as a human race, we see a new MegaTrend forming that is worth paying attention to and discussing for multiple reasons.
Virgin Galactic Kicks Off the Space Race
In Virgin Galactic news, entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson became the first billionaire to venture skywards to the edge of space on July 11, 2021. Launching the space race, this marks a major step forward for his company, Virgin Galactic (NYSE:SPCE), and for manned spaceflight.
Virgin plans on using this milestone to advance a business focused on space tourism. Its current model is to sell seats in its space plane for citizens to fly to an altitude of 55 miles above sea level, experience micro gravity for a few minutes, and then calmly return to Earth landing like a conventional aircraft at a special complex built specially by Virgin.
The spacecraft soared at supersonic speed up to about 53 miles above sea level. They reached a speed well over Mach 3. At apogee (that’s what space engineers call the highest point of the flight), the pilots shut down the rocket motors.
Then, the Unity’s fuselage articulated (or “feathered”) relative to the wing structure so that it was inverted and the passengers could look out the specially placed windows on the top of the fuselage down onto the Earth below.
Branson gave a short statement, released his seat belt, and played along in the microgravity with his five fellow adventurers for about a minute and a half.
A Successful Blue Origin Launch
Not to be outdone in this modern day space race, Jeff Bezos soared above the edge of space aboard his own New Shephard rocket on July 20, 2021. The rocket and capsule are the product of a commercial space venture founded by Bezos over 20 years ago and one that he personally funds to the tune of a cool $1 billion per year.
Joining billionaire Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) founder Jeff Bezos on his space journey was his brother Mark, former participant of NASA’s astronaut training program Wally Funk, and eighteen-year-old Oliver Daemen.
Accelerating skyward at three times the force of gravity (3Gs), the New Shepard rocket propelled the First Step to an altitude of about 45 miles (72 km). At that point, the capsule separated from the rocket, but with enough momentum to continue heading up for another 35 km. At 67 miles (107 km), the First Step reached apogee.
The four passengers experienced about three minutes of weightlessness, and after taking their seats and strapping-in, the capsule fell to Earth. At some point on the way down, three parachutes successfully deployed and slowed the capsule down from supersonic speed to 16 miles per hour.
At an altitude of around 6 feet, the First Step fired nitrogen powered rockets to slow the descent to roughly 1 mph, and then the capsule touched down on the desert floor. Everyone emerged from the capsule safe and in good spirits.
What Does the Space Race Mean for Investing?
There are multiple differences in the way these two major players approached creating their spacecrafts, manning their recent trips, and making it all happen, and there are many people that have differing opinions about this topic in general. They aren’t the only contenders in the space race either- we can’t forget about SpaceX.
One thing is for sure to us – there is so much potential for benefits to come out of these space ventures that will affect the global markets here on Earth. Let’s take a look at some…
1. Climate Change Awareness
Comments made by both Branson and Bezos upon their return serve as an important warning to all those living on Earth. They both made almost the exact same comment that one thinks of the Earth’s atmosphere above us as this enormous thing of unfathomable size, but from space, the atmosphere looks exceedingly thin and fragile.
The climate change we’re witnessing around the globe certainly supports the idea that our atmosphere is fragile, but many people don’t believe in either. I believe that as more people see our planet from space, they’ll report back the same message given by Branson and Bezos.
We can only hope this results in more people getting on board to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and take better care of our planet. This would be a critical social benefit of both Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic having been built.
2. Job Creation
More space flight means more engineers who know and understand how to get manned spacecrafts and supersonic rocket ships into space and keep humans safe during the journey.
In other words, knowledge propagates exponentially among good engineers. Smarter engineers mean more spaceflight and greater chances for successful human installations in space, on the moon, and maybe even on Mars one day.
This is indeed important to man’s future. There’s a synergistic effect with each flight that will lead to multiple future flights, and on and on until there’s a critical mass of people willing to take steps to protect our Earth.
3. New Technologies Impacting Our Quality of Life
Pushing the envelope like this also means a new generation of technologies that can be translated to everyday life on Earth. NASA’s work has given us numerous materials that benefit our lives constantly. Think of tools like…
Infrared Thermometers — It actually measures thermal radiation in the same way astronomers measure the temperature of stars and planets. It was developed so that it can be used repeatedly without sterilization. What’s more, the same thermometer can check the temperature of equipment on the spacecraft quickly and easily.
Embedded We Technology — Today, we take for granted our Mobility Age. We can be connected to the web with our mobile phones, laptops, or desktops almost anywhere in the world these days. It’s also the driving force behind another MegaTrend, the Internet of Things (IoT), which powers driverless cars, smart homes, appliances, and scores of other complementary technologies.
Artificial Limbs — NASA’s research on vehicles to explore planetary surfaces have led to breakthroughs in making substantially better artificial limbs, which has changed the quality of life for millions of people. Robotics work and shock absorption technologies have changed what’s possible with artificial limbs, and much of that work has been delivered from the space program.
These are just to name a few. Space research also got us modern insulation for buildings and homes, CAT scan machines, and improvements in baby formula. Space research delivered the first computer mouse… and the first laptop!
So, even if you don’t end up traveling beyond Earth’s atmosphere, there’s plenty of opportunity to enjoy the benefits of the technologies that get us there, and it’s safe to say that the space MegaTrend we see forming will be playing an important role in our economy for decades to come. We’re excited to see the new technologies that are sure to come out of the next few decades thanks to these space ventures!
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